Okay, so we just got the money to pay for the water taxi to the island and the water taxi comes and we are on our way. We have to cram all in this water taxi, which is essentially a speed boat with lots of rows of seats. Apparently this is how supplies also get to the island, so they have us hold large bags of supplies that are also being brought over. And we go for about 40 minutes on this boat until we get to Bocas. We unload off of the boat and we wait on the young lady to pay back.
As we walk off of the boat dock I hear “Courtenay! Courtenay!” And I am thinking who is here that knows me and I turn around to see Grettel from school running to me from the restaurant across the street from the boat dock. She could not believe that we had made the trip. It was her first time here and her first time crossing the bridge. We had known the day before that she and her husband too had to quickly leave Costa Rica, but she had told me that they were not going to go to Bocas, but here she was. She is Costa Rican, so she obviously speaks perfect Spanish. She is like, “I will take you to the ATM and we know of a great hotel that is run by Christians and I know that they have room for tonight, but after that everything is full because it is Panama’s Independence weekend celebration.”
So we pay the young lady back and Grettel and Gary help us find a place to stay. When we arrived at the hotel Chichon she was able to convince the guy at the front desk to make one of their small rooms, that is available for the entire time we would need it, work for us by putting an extra mattress on the floor. And when I say small I mean small. It was in the area that the hotel had converted from an attic to more rooms. But it was clean and air conditioned. We were so thankful. We found a restaurant that was cheap and we ate dinner and went to bed. We woke up the next morning and had breakfast at the same restaurant and went to the beach.
That night as we were settling down in our room we start to hear drums and trumpets coming from the streets and the park across from the hotel. Well, we remembered that it was their independence day and we thought it might last a little while and then start up the next day. Nope. It went from when we went to bed until late in the next afternoon. At one point it stopped for about 5 minutes so I opened my eyes and thought it had finally stopped for the night, and it was daylight. So we went back to the same restaurant for breakfast and ate and watched the parades. We walked all over the island and watched the parades that went on the entire day. I beleive that I have heard enough drums to last for quite some time.
The day before and the day of the celebrations the island was not allowed to sell alcohol, so the people were nice and calm. After the parades ended, the alcohol was allowed to be sold again. We could understand why they have this law when we saw the change in the people. Grown men were loudly arguing with the police and starting to get rough. We decided that we would spend the rest of our time in our room. It was not a good sight for our kids to see.
Then the next morning it was time to get up, get on the next water taxi out, back over “the bridge” and on the bus back to San Jose!!!
It was a stressful trip, but the Lord was good and He watched out for us the entire trip. He showed His hand in provisions and grace. The beach was probably one of the prettiest I have seen and the kids did enjoy all of the parades. We are thankful to have it all behind us and the documents that we needed to proceed with our student visas arrived earlier this week. So hopefully for the next year we will not have to leave the country like that.
Here are some pictures…